Harvard University, which already has the largest endowment in the country, just received a very, very generous gift from hedge fund manager/billionaire John Paulson.
Paulson’s payment of $400 million to Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) marks the largest gift the university has ever received. Congrats, Harvard! Now you have $36.4 billion PLUS $400 million, which is a great amount of money for a private institution to have.
In a statement, Paulson expressed his excitement about SEAS, saying:
“SEAS is the next frontier for Harvard, and its expanding campus in Allston promises to become the next major center of innovation. As an alumnus of Harvard, one who has benefited greatly from the education I received here, it is both a privilege and an honor to support this endeavor.”
After Paulson left Harvard’s business school in 1980 he did benefit greatly, and not just from his stellar education. He also made a tidy sum off the subprime mortgage crisis, the effects of which we are still feeling today. In a story titled “Trader made billions on subprime,” Gregory Zuckerman wrote for the Wall Street Journal back in 2008:
“On Wall Street, the losers in the collapse of the housing market are legion. The biggest winner looks to be John Paulson, a little-known hedge fund manager who smelled trouble two years ago… Funds he runs were up $15 billion in 2007 on a spectacularly successful bet against the housing market. Mr. Paulson has reaped an estimated $3 billion to $4 billion for himself — believed to be the largest one-year payday in Wall Street history.”
What great news for Paulson! But he did have problems later on: In 2012, Forbes pointed out that Paulson’s hedge fund attracted so much money, that he had trouble managing all of the wealth:
“By the end of 2008 Paulson’s hedge fund firm was managing $36 billion and it has become clear that managing all that money has been a very difficult thing for him to do.”
The market giveth, and the market taketh away. Or, in this case, giveth too much. At least Paulson gave back to a school that really needs the money.
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.